Be Good-at-Parent-Friends

“Should I have gotten their number?” my friend Thom asked me as we walked away from a morning story hour. “The kids seemed to play really well together.”

“Let’s go back!” I encouraged. 

“Nah. That’s okay. Maybe I’ll see them again.” 

“Are you sure?” I asked. “Did I tell you what happened to me? I didn’t know if I should get this mom’s phone number at the park and I asked Axel and I thought he said no and then we left and he was like, ‘why didn’t you get her number?’ And I was like, ‘you told me not to!’”

“But then, because she had told me that she’s a teacher, I looked her up and emailed her!”

I remember telling Axel that evening that I’d emailed her.

“I hope you didn’t seem too eager! Did she write back?” Axel counseled me.

She did! Within the day! I took that as a good sign.

But then school got out for the summer and after inviting her to one library story hour that she declined because her younger child had to nap, I never reached out again. 

But I had learned my lesson — ask for the number if you want it.

So when Little L and I were at the pool a few weeks later and Little L spent most of the time playing with a mellow two-year-old girl whose mom said she liked my swim jacket (you don’t hear THAT everyday!), I realized that I shouldn’t let this opportunity slip away.

When she said, “Maybe we’ll see you around here again,” I summoned the 22 year-old in side of me who had once written her number on a napkin and given it to a musician working at a coffee shop. I knew Axel would be proud of me for not letting this opportunity slip away.

“I could give you my number!” I said to the mom.

“Oh, that would be great!” she said. 

“It just seemed like the girls played really nicely together!” I said. I didn’t want her thinking I did this everyday.

The next week, we were at Thom’s house watching the World Cup final. 

“You know who i almost invited?” he asked. “That family that we met at the story hour!” 

“What, really?” I asked, excitedly.

“Oh, did I not tell you? Samantha looked her up on her FaceBook Mom’s Group and contacted her and we had a playdate that weekend!”

I told him about my recent exchange and we laughed about trying to make parent friends. Both being home for the summer with our kids, we know the importance of having other kids for the little ones to play with/next to/borrow toys from – and other adults for us to talk to. It’s like, you could do your daily job (feed, entertain, feed, clean up, feed, then break time if you’re lucky) alone, or you could do it in the company of a friend. Or stranger. Just an adult is nice.

“I think the key is that you have to set something up within the week,” Thom told me. This is the opposite of the old fashioned dating lore of making sure you wait long enough so you don’t look desperate. Maybe the point is that parents are desperate, and that’s what you need to appeal to.

I thought of my potential teacher-park friend who I’d tracked down through email. Nothing had come of it. I thought of the new mom I’d met at the pool. It was time to try texting her if I was going to. 

As Thom asid, “Otherwise, it’ll just be awkward.” 

We were about to head out of town, though, so I never texted. She didn’t either. Two months later, I doubt she’d even know who I was if I reached out. So while the friendship never took, at least I got some practice putting myself out there.

My very first experience in meeting parent friends went extremely well. I met my friend Veronica crossing the street last Labor Day morning, and Little L and Baby D now hold hands on a regular basis, for example, at the swim lessons we all took together this summer. We were a good friend match: we live nearby, we have similar schedules, similarly aged and tempermented children. I can text her, “Want to go to the park this morning?” and she responds, “What time? We’re at the store. Be right there!” 

Sadly for Little L and me, Veronica, her partner, and Baby D moved back to California at the beginning of September. “They’ll come back to visit,” I tell Little L. But we won’t run into them at the grocery store or Farmer’s Market, we won’t be able to invite them over during the predicted Polar Vortex, and we won’t squeeze in late afternoon park dates when it would be easier to stay home but better for everyone involved to get out of the house for a half an hour. 

While I’d love to believe that there was something about me in particular that drew Veronica to me, it turns out that she is just really skilled at making friends and building community. With her move out West, she leaves behind double digits of mom friends who will miss her. One time Veronica even made a dad friend at the park who was in town visiting from New York. The three of us and our kids grabbed coffee nearby even though we’d never see Dad or son again. Why not? Veronica is always up for meeting people and passing those sometimes very long days together.

Being an expert at parent friends, Veronica knows the importance of what Thom said about not waiting too long to use that contact info. “I like that you’re so reliable,” she tells me. Veronica and I got into a pattern – on my days off, we hung out in the morning with the kids. We rarely cancelled, though of course with kids sometimes someone was sick. “I appreciate that even when it’s hard to get out of the house, you make the effort to do it,” she told me. I appreciate that about her too.

With Veronica’s move leaving a large hole in Little L’s and my social world, I may have gone a little overboard in meeting potential Mom Friends as the summer came to an end. I started labeling them in my phone as “First Name, Mom Friend.” By the time swimming season came to a close, I’d collected about 10 names and numbers.

They won’t all become friends. If one or two of them do, I’ll be lucky. 

We’ll miss you, Veronica and Baby D. You were my original “Mom Friend,” and I’m glad to have you. May we continue to text complaints, questions, and the length of the kids’ naps even long after you’ve moved.

To all of you parents out there trying to meet each other, be brave and offer your number. And if you make plans with someone but are having a hard time getting your kiddo’s socks on and wrangling them into their stroller, try to power through.

You, and your new friend, will be glad you did.